Rings Of Saturn – Ulta Ulla

Rating: 3/5
Distributor/Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Distributor/Label URL: http://www.nuclearblast.de/en/
Released: 2017
Buy Album: http://www.nuclearblast.de/en/products/tontraeger/cd/cd/rings-of-saturn-ultu-ulla.html
Band Website: http://www.facebook.com/RINGSOFSATURBAND

Band line-up:

Lucas Mann – Guitar, Bass & Synth,
Ian Bearer – Vocals,
Aaron Stechauner – Drums,
Miles Dimitri Baker – Guitar.


1. Servant Of This Sentience
2. Parallel Shift
3. Unhallowed
4. Immemorial Essence
5. The Relic
6. Margidda
7. Harvest
8. The Macrocosm
9. Prognosis Confirmed
10. Inadequate


Much like the rest of metal as a whole to wider music fans, technical death metal is rather an acquired taste. The sheer complexity of riffs, rhythms, melodies and drums can put the average listeners’ head in a spin, yet to some it is the precipice in musical accomplishment. Yet, as a subgenre, it often falls victim to “style over substance” – writing magnum opuses that perform double duty as physio for victims of wrist RSI. So how do the purveyors of “alien-core”, RINGS OF SATURN, fare?

For those of the disposition that tech death is merely a vapid affair in soulless mile-a-minute riffs, the good news is that these Bay Area bruisers have made steps in becoming more coherent. Lucas Mann et al. have paid closer attention to structure of songs since 2014’s “Lugal Ki En”, so the overall flow to “Ulta Ulla” is far smoother. Additionally, the band retains the signature sound of lightning-fast guitar leads and licks, near-inhuman drumming and enough “alien” sounds from the early NES-era to make anyone gooey-eyed for the early years of gaming. Unfortunately, it’s just that those steps are rather more like baby steps.

It all starts positively, with openers “Servant Of This Sentience” and “Parallel Shift” bringing a far more focused technical assault on the ears, with an ear for coherence coming to prominence. Yet beyond the unnecessary throw-away track “Unhallowed” (an odd flamenco guitar jaunt), the usual dissociative identity disorder elements return. Disjointed riffs, forays into deathcore breakdowns and the classic RINGS OF SATURN blink-and-you’ll-miss widdly-widdly-woo atonal alien licks; they all fight for air in the dwindling supply as the void of space rapidly approaches. It’s cold and stifling at the same time with little there for relief.

Whilst impressive to listen to (and, likely, impressive to watch live), the chug-and-widdle riff to “Immemorial Essence” offers a microcosmic snapshot of RINGS OF SATURN. The unique nature is memorable enough, but the lack of substance behind it doesn’t endear itself all that much. Where the band’s technical proficiency does endear itself, is in the vibrant lead passages, à la “The Relic”. There’s a certain joyful property that they possess, a degree of fun to behold that one could imagine gave Mann and Co. something to smile about when recording in the studio. It certainly raises the spirits somewhat and lifts the album from the glut of finger-flaying riffs.

Additionally, that’s saying nothing about the album highlight: the excellent instrumental “The Macrocosm”. Perhaps with an absence of vocals, the band were required to concentrate further on melodicism and strucutre, but this could and should be the future of the band. There is a hearty dose of progression woven with meticulously-written lead lines that makes for a soaring instrumental – more of this paired with vocals in future would make for a very interesting RINGS OF SATURN album.

Ultimately, it’s a little more of the same for the Bay Area mob. “Ulta Ulla” may flow a little better than previous entries, but it is still a RINGS OF SATURN album. Suffice to say, if you’re otherwise indifferent to the band’s astronomical adroitness, “Ulta Ulla” won’t be changing your mind anytime soon (though “The Macrocosm” is well worth a listen). If you’re already on-board with the band’s brand of mazy guitar lines and chaotic nature, you’ll be cosmically creaming yourself. Worth probing around.

Review by Lee Carter